Ohio State 21, Penn State 10

Saturday, October 30th 2004, 9:07 pm
By: News On 6

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ As the final seconds burned off the clock, quarterbacks Michael Robinson and Zack Mills knelt on the Penn State sideline and commiserated over another disheartening loss.

``What more can go wrong for us?'' Robinson said after Saturday's 21-10 loss to Ohio State. ``We just get tired of losing. Nobody came here to lose.''

Ted Ginn returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown and Tyler Everett ran back an interception for another Ohio State score to doom the Nittany Lions to their fifth consecutive loss.

Joe Paterno, in his 39th year as Penn State's head coach, was asked how it felt to be assured of a fourth losing season in the last five years.

``Lousy,'' he said with his head down.

Two offenses ranked among the worst in the Big Ten struggled all day, combining for four turnovers, while the defenses set the tempo.

Neither team could pass in the gusting winds, with Penn State passing for just 69 yards despite trailing all day and Ohio State settling for 59 yards with a keepaway attack over the final three quarters.

Ginn's return and Everett's TD in the first quarter gave the Buckeyes (5-3, 2-3) an almost insurmountable lead against a Penn State offense that is last in the conference in scoring.

Penn State (2-6, 0-5) ran 16 plays in Ohio State territory in the opening half (twice as many as the Buckeyes did on the Nittany Lions' side of the field), had a 13-4 upper hand in first downs and a 157-63 advantage in total yards. Yet the Buckeyes led 21-7 thanks to two Penn State turnovers, a long kick return by Maurice Hall and Ginn's big punt return.

``As a defense, if we're on the field and we're scoring who cares about time of possession?'' said Ohio State linebacker Anthony Schlegel. ``Getting a turnover and taking it to the house is so great.''

The Lions took the opening kickoff and drove to a first down at the Ohio State 34, but a play later Robinson's pass to the right flat was intercepted by Ashton Youboty, who returned it 35 yards.

On their next possession, the Lions were forced to punt. Ginn accelerated up the middle and then cut to the Ohio State sideline for his second punt-return touchdown of the season. The freshman became only the fifth Buckeye to return two punts for TDs in the same season and the first since Jeff Graham in 1990.

``I focused on catching the ball in the wind,'' the freshman said. ``I saw an opening _ and it was over.''

Paterno also knew it was over, despite a week of preparation.

``We worked like dogs on the kicking game all week,'' he said. ``We made that a priority _ and got beaten badly in the kicking game.''

Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, Robinson's screen pass to a wide receiver in the left flat was wide of the target and Everett ran between two Penn State players to pick it off and return it 24 yards untouched for the score.

``We knew what to expect in that formation,'' Everett said. ``It felt great to pick the ball off. No one was ahead of me.''

Ohio State ran a total of six plays and netted just 12 yards in the first quarter but led 14-0.

``Touchdowns off special teams and defense are demoralizing,'' Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter said.

The Buckeyes chipped in with a turnover of their own midway through the second quarter when quarterback Troy Smith was hit from behind by Matthew Rice and fumbled, with Derek Wake recovering at the Ohio State 41. It took just six plays for Penn State to find the end zone, Tony Hunt setting up his own 3-yard score by bursting through a hole for a 26-yard gain.

It was only Penn State's third offensive touchdown in the Big Ten this season.

Hall returned the ensuing kickoff 62 yards to the Penn State 35 _ at the same time setting Ohio State's career record for kickoff-return yardage with 1,476 _ which led to Branden Joe's 4-yard touchdown run to push the lead back to 14 points.

The only points in the second half came on Robbie Gould's 21-yard field goal with 9:31 left, after Paterno disdained going for the touchdown from the Ohio State 3 on fourth down.

``I would probably second-guess myself on that now,'' he said.

Smith hit on 6 of 8 passes without an interception as Ohio State kept it on the ground the rest of the way and took time off the clock.

``We've progressed a little,'' Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said of his team, which has won two in a row after losing its first three Big Ten games. ``We're nowhere near the kind of team we want to be.''

Neither is Penn State.